The Florida House this week passed House Bill 7089, an unnecessary piece of legislation that would purportedly restore voting rights to people with past felony convictions, but would actually create hurdles by requiring them to pay all their criminal fines and fees – even if they have been converted to civil liens – before they could get their voting rights restored.
The legislation that the House approved on Wednesday is a so-called “implementation bill” for Amendment 4, which Florida voters already approved in November. The amendment to Florida’s constitution restored the right to vote to about 1.4 million Floridians who had served their sentences for felony convictions, except for those who were convicted of murder or felony sex offenses.
Amendment 4 requires no legislation to be implemented. The constitutional amendment, approved by more than 64 percent of the voters, is self-implementing. This is a slap in the face to Floridians who made their voices clear when they voted to restore voting rights to more than 1.4 million formerly incarcerated Floridians.
Under the proposed legislation, hundreds of thousands of people who have outstanding restitution, even if it has been converted to a civil lien, could be prevented from voting. The intent of the amendment was that only people who have not paid restitution imposed by a judge as part of their criminal sentence – and that has not been converted to a civil lien – would be prevented from voting.
The Florida Senate must reject this unnecessary legislation that goes against the will of the people. In the same election that voted in Gov. Ron DeSantis with roughly 4 million votes, more than 5.1 million people voted for Amendment 4.
If the Florida Legislature insists on disenfranchising people in a cynical political ploy, we hope the governor will respect the will of the voters and veto this legislation.
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